The Punjab Police failed to arrest fugitive Khalistani leader Amritpal Singh, on the run for the past 32 days. The searches in Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and in the border areas with Nepal have been unsuccessful.
The police now suspect he may be hiding in villages along the borders of Punjab-Haryana or Punjab-Rajasthan.
After escaping the police dragnet on March 18, the Waris Punjab De’s chief, Amritpal Singh, released a video on March 29 and claimed he managed to escape and was safe.
Who is helping Amritpal Singh?
Singh managed to evade the police at least twice while in Punjab. His springing hints that there was a leniency on the part of Punjab Police and other agencies which might have helped him easily escape. The escapades also appear like a well-scripted thriller.
The question now is who is helping him. The deployment of police and other forces and their failure to arrest him have been questioned by the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
Sikh leaders openly said that the case against Amritpal Singh has deep-rooted political implications.
“A huge force was deployed to arrest Amritpal Singh but he escaped. The government is now trying to vent its frustration with the public. Houses were raided. It was said he was in Pilibhit, in Rajasthan’s Kalibangan. What is their fault for being harassed?” asked former Jathedar of the Akal Takht, Jasbir Singh Rode, who is heading a committee to help the families of Singh’s aides charged under the NSA.
But where is Amritpal hiding? Sources in the police said he is somewhere in the country and has not fled India. Had he managed to flee, he would have released a video as he claimed in the previous one released in March that he would appear before the public.
Amritpal isolated, disgraced
Escaping the police has eroded Amritpal Singh’s image as a hardline Khalistani. He used to claim that he would never run away and desert his supporters before the police launched their massive crackdown.
While nine of his aides were arrested and charged under the NSA, Singh was left on his own on March 28 at Marnaiyan in Hoshiarpur, when his close aide Papalpreet ran in a different direction.
Papalpreet Singh, who was arrested on April 10 from Amritsar’s Kathu Nangal, previously arranged logistics and refuge for Amritpal for 11 days between March 18 and March 28.
Amritpal, as per the police sources, stayed at the Rajpur Bhaian village on March 28. The police arrested Kuldeep Singh and Hardeep Singh, who sheltered him.
It was said that Amritpal managed to give the police a slip and went to Uttar Pradesh. There were speculations that he wanted to surrender before the Punjab Police on the eve of Baisakhi. There were also some leads that he might be hiding in Sangria, Hanumangarh. The Punjab Police and their Rajasthan counterparts raided Sangria’s Santpur areas on April 12 and April 13.
They also searched in Sirsa’s Nagrana on April 16 based on inputs that Singh was hiding in the house of his supporter, Kehr Singh.
Interestingly, while the Akal Takht did not accept Amritpal’s demand to hold a Sarbat Khalsa, it opposed the decision to invoke NSA against him and his aides. His alleged proposal to surrender at a religious place was also not entertained. The Akal Takht chief in fact asked him to surrender before the police.
Crackdown on Amritpal irks Akal Takht, SGPC
Sikh authorities, including the highest temporal authorities – the Akal Takht and the SGPC, have conveyed their displeasure with the invoking of NSA against Amritpal Singh and his aides.
“We have decided to extend legal and financial help to the families of those arrested under the NSA. This matter is neither economic nor legal. This is a political matter,” Jasbir Singh Rode said.
The crackdown on Singh and his supporters, besides the pro-Khalistani social media channels, annoyed the Akal Takht so much that it termed the action ‘anti-Sikh’. The deployment of police at religious places was also opposed.
The national media also faced its ire and were accused of defaming the Sikh community. The Akal Takht even set up a cell to monitor the national news channels and threatened to sue the media houses.
The SGPC, the organisation that manages the gurdwaras, has now decided to render financial and legal aid to the families of Singh’s nine aides who have been charged with the NSA.
The body arranged a meeting of these families with the accused in Assam’s Dibrugarh, where they have been lodged for security reasons, on Thursday but it did not happen as the group failed to meet the deadline.